I have become tired of myself, of my thoughts, of my words, of trotting out the same old, same old litany on every occasion I open my mouth. I have become a misery-guts. A kindly put question, though let’s face it generally a socially required opening line rather than one put with genuine concern, of “how are you?” has lead in recent weeks with my reeling off a line of woes – repeated infections, two abscesses and two teeth extracted following on a hip replacement, supressed immune system etc etc. I’m nearly medically qualified in all of this now; certainly, more so than Google in that I can, at least, be accurate in what I say.
Of course, it has … eventually … dawned on me that people don’t want to hear all of this; they want a simple reassurance that the world of medicine works wonderfully and that all ills can be cured so, a “All going great, thanks” is what they want to hear but, instead, they recognise that tone on the first few words out of my mouth and it sends their brains into shut-down, their eyes glaze over – something I noticed as I have become less self-obsessed in these matters.
Sympathy has a short life span, a short attention span. People have their own lives, their own concerns, their own worries and enquire of the wellbeing of others out of courtesy and in a moment of concern and thoughtfulness. The woes of other people do not occupy their thoughts and lives for they have their own worries and own concerns to occupy them. It is not a fault, not a lack of empathy, not a lack of kindness; it is simply life as it is. One has no right to expect sympathy nor any right to trot out one’s woes to prompt a sympathetic response.
Oftentimes, those going through a period of distress can forget this and imagine that the drama of their own lives will be of interest and importance to others. This is not the case. I am simply a passing acquaintance in the lives of most others as they are in mine so I must curb my tongue in future and let “All going great, thanks” become my stock reply to all enquiries.
Then again, the posting of our miseries on social media might be benefit to others. I read recently a paper by a Stanford University psychologist where he commented on the constant stream of happiness we view on social media, the regular prompting that we share happy memories and the unending promptings to be happy with guidelines on how to achieve it. He suggested that such posts can lead to unhappiness in readers for they are unrealistic – that no life is so constantly full of happiness; that life has its downs and well as its ups.
Might the opposite be true also: that sad and miserable posts might lead to happiness in the readers?